Bruce D. Berkowitz

with Others

Berkowitz, Bruce D., and Allan E. Goodman. Best Truth: Intelligence in the Information Age. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000. New York: Free Press, 2002. [pb]

According to Jonkers, AFIO WIN 19-00 (12 May 2000), the authors focus on the need for "a fundamental re-thinking of what intelligence and an intelligence organization is supposed to do." The book "is written in explanatory fashion for the general public, contributing to understanding of national intelligence issues and challenges."

Robert David Steele provides the following comments: "This book dedicates itself entirely to fixing the underlying process of intelligence. The authors place intelligence in the larger context of information, and draw a plethora of useful comparisons with emerging private sector capabilities and standards. They place strong emphasis on the emerging issues (not necessarily threats) related to ethnic, religious, and geopolitical confrontation, and are acutely sensitive to the new power of non-governmental organizations and non-state actors. The heart of their book is captured in three guidelines for the new process: focus on understanding the consumer's priorities; minimize the investment in fixed hardware and personnel; and create a system that can draw freely on commercial capabilities where applicable (as they often will be). Their chapter on the failure of the bureaucratic model for intelligence, and the need to adopt the virtual model -- one that permits analysts to draw at will on diverse open sources -- is well presented and compelling. Their concluding three chapters on analysis, covert action, and secrecy are solid professional-level discussions of where we must go in the future."

Bath, NIPQ, Summer 2001, calls this work "a thought-provoking discussion of how the intelligence community needs to reform to operate in the atmosphere of ... the asymmetric threat." For Russell, Studies, Winter-Spring 2001, "[t]he authors, while sympathetic to the demands of intelligence, [have] marshal[ed] a critical analysis of the IC in the hopes of sparking reform, which they persuasively argue is essential to the future efficacy of the IC in supporting American statecraft."

[Overviews/U.S./00s; Reform/00s/Gen]

Berkowitz, Bruce D., and Allan E. Goodman. "The Logic of Covert Action." The National Interest 51 (Spring 1998): 38-46.


Berkowitz, Bruce D., and Allan E. Goodman. Strategic Intelligence for American National Security. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989. [pb] 3d ed., 1991.

Kozak, APSR 84.3, argues that Berkowitz and Goodman provide "a very systematic, thorough, authoritative survey that applies solid political science, policy science, and political theory to the important study of the gathering, processing, and utilizing of U.S. intelligence." Their work is "methodologically sophisticated and additive," and "raises some of the profound questions posed by intelligence activities in a free society.... A number of normative prescriptions for better practicing the 'craft of intelligence' ... seem right on target."

According to Cline, PSQ 104.4, this work "provides a competent description of the process of intelligence collection and analysis and presents a rapid overview of the issues that are still viewed as controversial." One criticism that can be made is that the authors did not address the interface between the intelligence process and the national policymakers. Cline, concludes, however, that the book "is brief, readable, and crisply efficient in providing a good starting point of reference of the basic elements of the process of intelligence."

Surveillant 1.5 notes that Berkowitz and Goodman are "[c]ritical of many Washington sacred cows" and are seeking "to establish terms for a public debate on U.S. intelligence policy and planning in years ahead."

For Jervis, IJI&C 3.3, the book offers an "informative overview of American intelligence processes and problems." However, it "can be faulted for not fully addressing emerging trends," such as "the growing role of Congress ... as a consumer of intelligence." Johnson, I&NS 5.3, sees the book as "the best primer available on the core mission of the intelligence community," but faults the authors for "underestimat[ing] the attractiveness and implications of covert action." Lowenthal points out that the third edition "has an afterword reflecting on the challenges facing intelligence in the aftermath of the Cold War."

[Overviews/U.S./90s; WhatIsIntel?[c]

Berkowitz, Bruce D. and Allan E. Goodman. "Why Spy -- and How -- in the 1990s?" Orbis 36, no. 2 (Spring 1992): 269-280.


Berkowitz, Bruce D., and Jeffrey T. Richelson. "The CIA Vindicated: The Soviet Collapse Was Predicted." The National Interest 41 (Fall 1995): 36-47.

"[T]hroughout the 1980s the intelligence community warned of the weakening Soviet economy, and, later, of the impending fall of Gorbachev and the breakup of the Soviet Union.... [T]he intelligence community -- and the CIA in particular -- performed well in anticipating the Soviet collapse. In some respects, its performance was exemplary.... [T]he documentary record portrays an intelligence community that fully understood that the Soviet Union was in trouble." One of the mistakes that the CIA did make was to pursue "false precision" in seeking an exact rate of growth for a non-market economy. "By attempting to estimate specific growth rates, the intelligence community diluted its main message ... which ... was right on the mark."

With regard to Gorbachev's ability to hold onto power, the "record suggests ... that the intelligence community, and particularly the CIA's Office of Soviet Analysis, were keenly aware that Gorbachev was playing with fire.... Of all intelligence agencies, the CIA had the most pessimistic view of Gorbachev's ability to fix the Soviet economy and retain power." Two years before Gorbachev's fall, the Bush administration had reacted to the reporting by establishing a "'contingency planning group' ... to analyze specific options as to how to react if the Gorbachev regime fell.... In retrospect, the CIA was most prescient in anticipating events." Specifically, it "[r]epeatedly mentioned a coup as a serious possibility." But it also noted that even "if the hardliners did manage to seize power temporarily, they would not be able to consolidate control."

Were U.S. national security policymakers listening? Scowcroft does not recall the level of warning seemingly indicated by the documentary evidence. On the other hand, Gates believes the warnings "reached their target." The authors conclude that: "In any case, it is clear that the Bush administration chose to stand by Gorbachev in spite of [italics in original] the intelligence that argued his future was limited." And there were strong reasons for doing so.

The authors see the misperception of the CIA's performance in predicting the Soviet collapse as a cautionary tale from which lessons can be learned: The danger of the conventional wisdom; the limitations of intelligence in the policy process; intelligence analysts are not psychics; and the intelligence-policymaker relationship needs to be improved.


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